Rockland police grappling with a juvenile crime wave

Close to 100 reports coming in during last three months involving assault, terrorizing, theft, trespassing and more
Published: Nov. 7, 2022 at 4:08 PM EST
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ROCKLAND, Maine (WABI) - Rockland is dealing with a rash of crimes committed by juveniles. Close to 100 calls in just the last three months.

Like the town of Fairfield, Rockland police say there is growing concern in part due to current legal constraints.

“Rockland is not the only place this is happening, it’s throughout the state,” says Rockland Police Chief Tim Carroll. “We’re trying to control the situation but it’s difficult as grown adults dealing with juveniles. And they’re challenging us, almost looking for that fight.”

Chief Carroll describes the group as about 6 or 7 juveniles, ranging in age from 12 to 16. The crimes include assault, terrorizing, public intoxication, verbal threatening, disorderly conduct, trespassing at businesses and theft.

The Flanagan Center has been the scene of numerous incidents. It’s gotten so bad, the director actually had to close the community rec center at times. Also, one of their workers was assaulted while trying to break up a fight.”

“I’ve had officers getting injured, they’re getting assaulted, head butted, kicked, spit on,” says Carroll.

In some cases criminal charges are filed. But Chief Carroll says due to a lack of enforcement options, those charges typically result in just a paper summons.

“There are some parents that we communicate with,” he says. “At the same time, the kids have been empowered, they know the process so they get released to the parents and then take off in the night.”

In the past, juvenile offenders would be sent to Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland.

“But there’s been more of a resistance of not locking the kids up and less of an effort, I feel, in getting them the help they need,” says Carroll. “They’re still kids but when it comes to the out of control fighting, it’s a battle.”

Chief Carroll cites an incident this summer involving a juvenile who called 9-1-1 saying he had a gun and to come get him.

“We had a confrontation on Main Street. And fortunately that juvenile had his hands up, but what if he makes the wrong move, he reaches for something that the officer can’t see,” says Carroll.

Last Monday, police tried arresting a juvenile on an outstanding warrant. According to Chief Carroll, she hit an officer in the face. Then a group of juveniles surrounded the police cruiser. That same group later came to the police station, screaming vulgarities at officers and kicking at the doors.

“These kids, I think are screaming for help, not the appropriate way. But we need to do something to help these kids because we can’t continue to let them keep acting the way that they are acting.”

Chief Carroll says in one instance, it cost the city of Rockland more than $1,000 in additional staffing and transportation costs to take a juvenile to Long Creek Youth Development Center.

That same juvenile was released 48 hours later, and then back on the streets by the third day after having run away from DHHS custody.

Last Friday, Chief Carroll met with the District Attorney, DHHS, Juvenile Probation, the Superintendent of RSU 13, and local city officials to discuss alternatives and intervention.

He expects smaller group discussions to come at another date.